Where I was born.( Part one )

Where I was born.

Life history of Dr. Joseph Plumb Cochran

“Founder of Urmia’s First Medical college


“He came not to be  ministered unto,but to be minister”

           The above sentence is carved on Joseph. P. Cochran’s grave stone; adopted from the holy Bible. The grave stone is huge, wide and heavy and broken in the mid section. On one side of the stone, there is a text in Assyrian language; an ancient language of Mesopotamia; and on the other, a text in English.

Dr. Cochran’s grave is located next to Catherine’s, his young wife who died in 1895, when she was only 42;  at the pick of her youth.

            His father, Joseph. J. Cochran, his mother, Deborah. Plumb. Cochran and others like Justin Perkins, Dr. Wright, Mr. Walter and the former British council lie silently in the neighborhood..

A bit farther, outside the cemetery boundary walls, and on a mild slope, in the middle of a pasture; the grave of the one who was his best friend since childhood lies. His grave stone is a  grain mill stone; carved by himself, supposed to be placed in the new mill of the village.

            American presbyterian missionary’s cemetery, is located at the top of the “Seer mountain” in Urmia, Iran and in the old Christian’s cemetery of “Seer village” which today is called, “Seer – e – Heidarloo”. The cemetery is in the west side of the village and on a mild slope. Down there, near a narrow lane, in the South-west of the village; there is Cochran’s house, facing towards west. It was inherited from his father. The house used to have a brick facade but now the ceiling is collapsed. There is still a wooden door and a metallic knocker; and grid-like wooden  windows, which are long and slim where Dr. Cochran used to look at the mountains through, to the medical school of Urmia, Westminister hospital, the Urmia city and the narrow path which was stretched from the village to far; to eternity.

Seer village


          Reverend Joseph. J. Cochran and his wife Deborah entered Urmia in 1848 and settled in “Seer” village. He not only managed the church affairs, but also cooperated with the “Seer” boarding school and taught English and religious sciences there. He also managed to perform the religious routines of several other villages. His wife Deborah, did the house work and also taught village women sewing and weaving skills with the minimal facilities and for two days a week she helped Dr. Wright in  the clinic.

            After seven years of residence in “Seer” village of Urmia, in January 14, 1855 a newborn baby, who was named Joseph Plumb Cochran stepped in their family. Joseph was his father’s name, plumb his mothers surname and Cochran was his father’s surname. During the childhood he was under his mother’s peaceful and kind supervision and he not only studied in the “Seer” boarding school for six years, but also learned religious teachings and social ethics from his parents. In addition during his childhood he learned Assyrian, Azari, Kurdish and Armenian languages quite well; since all his peers were of those native speaker’s communities.

In 1868, when he was thirteen, along with his family, he went to America to visit relatives where, he could carry on his education .

      After three years; he graduated from New York boarding college and owing to his potential talent he entered the New York medical college and graduated in 1876. After passing two years of hospital disciplinary period he mastered in surgery, infectious diseases control and gynecology.  Meanwhile; he took a trip to Minnesota and came to know and later fell in love with a beautiful girl  named Catherine. Later meetings ended to their merry marriage. In 1878 Dr. Joseph. P. Cochran and his wife Catherine came back to his hometown,  Urmia. Upon his arrival and residence in “Seer” village; he made a survey on hygienic situation of the area and realized the existing agony of people. Therefore he decided to establish a clinic. At first he visited patients with his wife in Iran’s (Today it’s the nursing college of Urmia ).     But  there were a lot of patients. Some suffered from serious illnesses some needed   surgical operations, and some needed long term residence in a hospital.


In 1878, by Dr. Cochran’s enquiry, American missioners purchased a fifteen hectare land  and began constructing a 100 bed hospital there. The hospital was named “Westminister” and became quite well known among people. There were two large halls for non-contagious diseases; ten smaller chambers for contagious and infectious illnesses, two operation rooms and a large room was considered for a  drugstore. A vast basement was also built for dissection room and morgue. The construction and preparation of the hospital took almost a year and it became operational in 1879.

Owing to lack of enough medical practitioners; after the hospital started its activity; Dr. Cochran decided to establish a medical school to train doctors. So, a wooden building was erected near the hospital, where medical staff were trained and lived with
Dr. Cochran and his family in following years. The theoretical classes were held downstairs, in a large room and they built a laboratory there, too.

            This wooden building which is Urmia’s first medical school, still can be seen and visited at Urmia University. The garden and it’s streets still prevail today. Later, a maternity hospital was built with five patients’ rooms, operation rooms,  staff rooms and separate from the hospital a ward was constructed for infectious diseases, and a building for a drugstore was built there too. They received hospital furniture and supplies from the U.S.

            The educational activity of the college which had been started in 1879; was expanded in 1882 with more facilities, vaster organization and in spite of Dr. Cochran’s plentiful problems, he accepted the responsibility and managment of the medical college.

            In the first year; and with just a few co-workers. He taught most of the courses himself. His wife took charge of the English language courses and “Mirza – Yousef – Khan – Lesanal – Hozor” taught Persian language.

            By completion of the building and development of facilities, those American doctors who had come to Urmia, accepted teaching and co-operating in the hospital affairs and each spent several hours a day to train young doctors.

       Until the time when the medical school stopped it’s activity in 1905; Dr. Wright, Dr. Holmz, Dr. NonNourdon and Dr. Miller instructed basic sciences and clinical sciences. Taught materials at the school were as follows: general courses: English language, Persian language, medical laws and ethics.

            Basic sciences: physiology, Clinical sciences: pathology, diseases control, internal diseases’ surgery, gynecology, obstetrics, orthopedics and first aids. Students had to attend in the medical college for nine to ten months each year. The college was open round the clock. Students used to study theoretically for several hours  and spend rest of their time, as disciples in the hospital. Since they didn’t have pharmacology in a compiled method and the only sources of drugs were herbs; Dr. Cochran who had a complete familiarity with Azari, Kurdish and Assyrian languages designed a combination of traditional medicine and systematic and modern pharmacology of that time which students had to be mastered in along with their clinical disciplinary period. As a result, the first college of pharmacological sciences was established in Urmia by Dr. Cochran.

            The medical college was active and Until he died, and the result of his 27 year educational and academic work, five groups of doctors; who graduated from the school. Their names and graduation dates are as follows:


  1.       The first group in 1883: Dr. Oshan – Khan
    (Dr. Cochran’s assistant), Dr. Israeil,
    Dr. Shamoel, Dr. Yohana (hospital assistant)
    Dr. Elisha.
  2. The second group in 1890: Dr. Davood (He was a      hospital assistant until he went to London),
    Dr. Daniel, Dr. Shamoon. 
  3. The third group in 1894: Afshliman,
    Dr. Bagherkhan – Khoei, Dr. Shalimon,
    Dr. Aleksanderos, Dr. Aghasi, Dr. Yonten – Ke, Dr. Davood Hasanloo.
  4. 4. The fourth group in 1900: Dr. Joseph Pire (Dr.      Cochran’s assistant who served his people and died in his hometown) Dr.      Envie (He practiced medicine in Tabriz and died there too) Dr. Loter, Dr.      Ebrahim, Dr. Hashemkhan Khoei,   Dr.      Mirza – Ali – Khoei,  Dr. Alkhas.
  5. The fifth and last group in 1904: Dr. Eskandar –      Khan (practiced in Urmia), Dr. Shamoeil,
    Dr. Mir – Sadegh – Khoei, Mrs. Miller
    (Dr. Miller’s wife), Dr. Baba (practiced in Mosel, Iraq).     

Of graduated doctors; two were educated by Dr. Wright, two by Dr. Non Nourdon, seven by Dr. Holmz and the rest were trained by Dr. Cochran himself.

(Will Continue)

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